Misery by Stephen King
Digital Audiobook narrated by Lindsay Crouse
Published by Viking Books on June 8th 1987
Genres: Fiction, Horror, Thriller
Length: 370 pages or 12 hours, 21 minutes
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Novelist Paul Sheldon has plans to make the difficult transition from writing historical romances featuring heroine Misery Chastain to publishing literary fiction. Annie Wilkes, Sheldon's number one fan, rescues the author from the scene of a car accident. The former nurse takes care of him in her remote house, but becomes irate when she discovers that the author has killed Misery off in his latest book. Annie keeps Sheldon prisoner while forcing him to write a book that brings Misery back to life.
So, a million years ago, my then-boyfriend sat me down and decided that for date night, we were going to watch Misery. He told me it was based on a Stephen King book, like that would give it brownie points because it was based on a book. I remember cringing a lot, and not loving the general flow of the movie – the actors, especially. I remember being hooked.
Fast forward about six years later to today. I married that schmuck, and Misery popped up on my TBR. I remembered the story being formidable, and I’ve read a lot of Stephen King since to know that his books are either hit or miss for me, so lets see how Misery holds up!
Misery holds up, my friends. This book moves at an excruciatingly slow pace, which makes the hours tick by and the suspense that much worse. We primarily have two characters – Paul Sheldon and Annie Wilkes – both written with layers and layers. At the end of the book, I decided I don’t like either Paul or Annie. While Paul went through hell and back, they’re both twisted characters. It’s King at his best.
Have you ever heard someone say that something is like a car accident? You know you shouldn’t stare, but you can’t look away? That’s Misery. At every turn, the knife twists a little bit in the wound. It claws away one painful step at a time, and that’s in both parallel stories. Besides Annie and Paul, we have Misery’s Return that comes in bits and pieces as Paul writes the book just for Annie Wilkes. The plot is simple: will Paul escape or won’t he? It’s also very effective. The flares of temper keep the pages turning, because as a reader, you can’ believe that just happened. Paul is a slightly unreliable narrator because he’s an author with a vivid imagination. Sometimes, a scenario is just in his mind. So you sit and you wait, because maybe the scene you just read will rewind in a moment and he was just playing out a scenario.
And then, it’s doesn’t.
Dang, this is a good book. It’s difficult to read because of the shock and gore, but it’s good. The writing is fantastic, and the slow pace works so well for tension. King pays attention to every minute detail, because the setting is so small. If your setting is the world, you notice countries. If your setting is a room, you notice old cobwebs in the corners. The tension works on two levels – because on one hand, you know that Paul is royally screwed. But on the other hand, like a horror movie where the character is making a bad decision, you just want to scream at the book and tell Paul what to do. You really don’t know where it’s going to end. Even though I had seen the movie, and I know that movies are notoriously unfaithful to the book, so even I wasn’t sure.
Lindsay Crouse does an excellent job narrating this novel, using her voice like a tool to add tension. She embodies the characters really well and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this one.
Overall, if you’re looking for a suspenseful book and don’t mind a little bit of gore, Misery is a fantastic psychological thriller. After reading this, I also feel like the film was excellent. I’ll have to watch it again and do a proper feature, but altogether the story is horrifying and thrilling and crazy and wow. If you’re a King fan, or a fan of the genre, this is a must-read.